Monday, 14 December 2015

Who forgot to bring the fish?

Saturday saw a gathering of members of the Maggot Drowning Forum to participate in the South East Fur and Feather match held at Furnace Brook Fishery, East Sussex. This is a wonderful lake set in a valley. Even on a murky winter's day the place has an inviting charm.

The day commenced with the usual early start. Not cold at all, and refreshingly it was dry as I loaded the van.  A few drops of rain on the window were not the prelude to a wet day - thank goodness. I really did not fancy sitting on the bank cold and wet.

It's dark, it's 5:45AM and I'm goin' fishin'... Bonkers!
This time on a Saturday morning even the streets of London are relatively quiet. I decided to drive out through the suburbs to the M25. Normally I will take the other option and drive due East out to the motorway via the south circular to Swanley and drive back around the M25. a much longer route in distance but quicker due to the ability to drive at a decent speed. Driving through deserted streets at 30mph (20mph in places) is frustrating to say the least. The nice sedate drive, admiring the new speed cameras (he said gritting his teeth), got me onto the M25 and onward to the A21. This, for those who don't know it is a decent run of dual carriageway as far as Southborough, where Jane insisted I should "Take the exit". That was the end of the easy driving from here on down it was town and country lanes that just got narrower and narrower... Not fun at all in the dark, punching the van down unfamiliar country lanes hopping that nothing was coming the other way as there was no room to pass. Eventually I made it to the fishery at 07:20 and managed to get parked.

I was the second one there. I could see a light on in the lodge and squelched my way through the gate and over towards the smell of bacon cooking. I was greeted by one of the other guys, Wayne, sitting there fondling the fishery cat, and the guy making the bacon smell.  After exchanging a few pleasantries the afore mentioned cat decided to bite Wayne and was duly 'ejected' from its previous position. The cat made a swift exit out onto the balcony that over-looks the end of the lake. this was followed by an almighty splash!  We both rushed out there expecting to see a half drowned cat. Instead we realised the cat had surprised a duck that made a rapid decent into the lake. The cat was no where to be seen.

A huge baguette stuffed with several rashers of bacon and a mug of tea followed, re leaving us of a very reasonable £4 each. Time to get the gear ready. By this time the others had arrived and the sun had risen. The guys were chewing-the-cud in the car park and getting their trolleys ready. Posh, branded luggage was carefully piled onto designer trolleys ready for the off. It is at this point that I feel like the the poor-relation, akin to an allotment being compared with a stately garden. My meagre kit piled higgledy-piggledy onto my sack barrow and secured with some bright red bungee straps.

View from my peg. That little blue shape under the red arrow is the van!
Kit loaded, it was time for the draw. I pulled peg 5. Yes, you guessed it, right up the far end of the lake. A good peg I was told. After dragging the loaded barrow with one hand and the pound-shop bucket in the other to the peg I was then faced with a flight of steps down to the peg itself. Leaving the barrow at the top would have been the sensible thing to do, but no. Muggins here decided that he would roll it down the grass bank. Halfway down It became obvious that this course of action was never going to have a happy outcome as there was a, eighteen inch vertical drop at the bottom of the slope to the peg.  The trolley did a broadside and landed on its side with all the gear in disarray.  Well, that's one way of doing it. The only major inconvenience was that my cantilevered tackle box that had just been tidied and carefully sorted out was now well and truly un-sorted!

It didn't take me long to set up my small amount of kit. I had my feeder rods set up already, only requiring the addition of hook lengths and bait to be added. I pitched (if that is the right word) my keep nets, positioned my seat, set out my other bits and pieces and that was it, ready. Still having half and hour or so until the off, I went for a wonder around and a chat with the others while they were setting up. Ten competitors, and what seemed like nine poles... Hmmm... Might be something I am missing here, me thinks.

Just before the whistle, calm and coloured water
10 o'clock, and the match was off. I had already planned my lines and clipped up to where I thought I might catch a few fish. The water was very coloured after the recent heavy rain but the consensus of opinion was that there would be fish around, ready and willing to be hauled in and shown the sights. Straight in with the flat back method loaded with my usual Two Dog groundbait. A punched lump of Bacon Grill on the hook. This was repeated several times to lay down some free offerings. Normally by now we would get a few line bits and some interest if not a few fish in the net. Nothing. I was not alone, very few fish were being landed. Hours went by and absolutely nothing was happening.  I swapped to a swim feeder and maggots, both in the feeder and on the hook. Nothing. By this time I am beginning to think that someone had forgotten to bring the fish! I had seen the odd fish being caught but the pickings were slim to non-existent.

Three hours in and still no fish.This was getting silly. Then just as the enthusiasm was about to dry up completely the rod top bent over and I had a fish on. Reeling in this first fish was not exactly hard work and when it arrived it was a 1oz roach... but it was a fish! That was to be my total catch of silvers all day.

Four and a half ours in, my total was one fish and 1oz. I had a feeling I was not going to win this one. Sitting there feeling rather deflated I decided to give the sweetcorn another go. I had tried it earlier with no luck. I cast back on my original line and tightened up to the feeder when it suddenly took off! Blimey I have caught a fish and this feels like a carp. Please don't come off the hook.....  More winding and a bit more fighting tiring to keep it from heading for cover. I eventually landed a nice sized common weighing in at 5½lb (at least in my book) Okay not the biggest fish in the lake but at least I had caught one. Chuffed to bits with my catch I continued to fish corn on the feeder for the last half an hour but did not get another sniff.

It does not look as big as it was, folded into the net, but I was a 5½lb fish - the only carp I caught all day
Out of all the anglers that weighed in I came last with a total weight of 5½lb as I know at least one other did not weigh in, in my books I was not really last so I was as happy as I could be. I wish I had caught a few more but that was how it was and I was not going to let one poor outing put me off. Fish or no fish I had a great day and I got to fish a new (to me) venue. I think I will go back in the summer and give it another go. It is without doubt a very picturesque  venue and, if wast the others say who know the place is anything to go by there is normally good fishing to had.


During the day, while experimenting with different hook baits, I did try my latest creation, frylies, that I talked about in my last post.  Although I did not get a bite, they proved their ability to survive a cast, soak and retrieve with out breaking up. I will give them another go in the new year and I will report any findings then.

I plan to get some dropshooting in on the regents on Sunday morning, if the weather holds, combined with a visit to the street-food market at Camden Lock or sample some more of the weird cuisine on offer from all over the world. Last time be were only brave enough to sample some Polish sausage, maybe it will be something more exotic on Sunday!